HARLEY-DAVIDSON LIVEWIRE ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE – FIRST RIDE

HARLEY-DAVIDSON LIVEWIRE ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE – FIRST RIDE


     
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Harley-Davidson is known as The Motor Company, but nobody ever thought the name would be applied to an electric motorcycle.

 Meet the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle, a research project into the viability of an electric two-wheeler for the bar-and-shield brand. Cycle World had the chance to see and touch the bike up close, and also got an opportunity to ride LiveWire on an abandoned runway in Southern California.

The machine we rode is one of two dozen or so demonstrator bikes that Harley-Davidson built for the Project LiveWire Experience (projectlivewire.com), an H-D dealer demo tour that will travel across the country through the end of the year and into Europe and Canada in 2015. Consumers will get to ride LiveWire and give Harley-Davidson feedback, allowing the company to evaluate consumer interest and decide if and how LiveWire would go into production.

 “We’re out there giving the customers an opportunity to really have greater input, and for us to glean information and use that for the future,” said Kirk Rasmussen, LiveWire Styling Manager.

 In recent years, Harley-Davidson has become more aggressive than ever in its efforts to involve customers in its product planning process. As with the Project Rushmore touring models and the Street 750 and 500, extensive market feedback was gathered during development to ensure that buyers are really getting what they want.

 “America at its best has always been about reinvention,” said Matt Levatich, President and Chief Operating Officer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company. “And, like America, Harley-Davidson has reinvented itself many times in our history, with customers leading us every step of the way. Project LiveWire is another exciting, customer-led moment in our history.”

 So far, the history of the electric motorcycle has been a bumpy one. A few major motorcycle manufacturers have toed the waters with electrics, most notably the BMW with the C evolution scooter and KTM with its Freeride E light enduro. But of the startup companies currently producing electric motorcycles, Zero andBrammo have made the most progress. These companies lacked financial resources and the motorcycle-engineering experience and infrastructure to produce a machine that felt like a motorcycle that happened to be electric, so to speak. More recent production Zeros and Brammos we’ve tested are much closer to the mark, but none felt as polished and fully motorcycle-like as this prototype Harley-Davidson.
      
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 “As you can see from the LiveWire demonstrator, it is highly refined,” said Chief Engineer Jeff Richlen. “Our engineering staff is a group of highly talented and technical people, so the resources that we have internally are certainly bigger than some of the others that are out there in the two-wheeled space. But it isn’t just about that, it’s about the innovation and the robust product-development process that we use for all of our products. This one happens to be a demonstrator, but it was built using the same fundamental principles that we use in all our bikes.”

 After seeing a few photos of the LiveWire prior to sitting on it in person, I expected it to be a bit larger. In fact, it’s quite compact, with a low seat height, an easy reach to the bars and a comfortable, standard-style seating position. It almost feels 7/8 scale compared to naked bikes like Ducati’s Monster. Although my time on this electric Harley was limited, with much of my riding fulfilling photo and video requirements, I was able to get a solid feel for the LiveWire and its performance.

 First impression? The bike I rode felt 100 percent production ready and didn’t resemble a cobbled-together prototype in any way. Fit, finish, and function were excellent, as you would expect from a machine that consumers are going to ride and judge. Not only that, but every detail—including the crinkle-finish one-piece cast aluminum frame and swingarm, the LED headlight, the trick CNC-milled billet-aluminum front turnsignal/mirror brackets, the TFT LED dash, and the delicate-looking wheels—is clean, stylish, and of high quality.
     
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 Start up procedure goes like this: thumb the right bar-mounted rocker switch to On, which brings the display to life, then select one of two modes, either Range or Power, then hit the “start” button which activates the longitudinally mounted three-phase AC motor, which is rated at 74 horsepower and 52 pound-feet of peak torque. Twist the right grip (it’s not really a throttle), and you roll away. But, surprisingly, this doesn’t happen silently.

 “The sound that we’ve developed for this motorcycle is uniquely our own,” explains Richlen. “It is not silent. It’s far from it. It has a very distinct sound that is a result of the architecture we have chosen for the motor.”

The whine comes from the bevel gear that shifts the longitudinal motor’s output 90 degrees and sends it to the belt final drive.

 Of course, the very first thing I did was twist the accelerator WFO to get a sense of what is cooking underneath all of the bodywork and to hear the turbine-like wail in the cockpit. Harley says the LiveWire will hit 60 mph in less than four seconds, which feels spot-on. Compared to the last Zero SR we tested, the LiveWire feels quicker off the line, even smoking the rear tire on a couple of hard launches for the video camera. On the runway, I did a top-speed blast to an electronically limited peak of 95 mph. It wanted more.

 The most impressive element of the LiveWire riding experience is that it feels and functions like a “real” motorcycle (despite its clutchless transmission), something that Zero is just getting close to achieving after a decade. (Read the 2014 Zero SR riding impression.)
     
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The upside-down Showa Big Piston fork and cantilever shock are fully adjustable and feel sportbike stiff without being harsh. The single disc, pin-slide, twin-piston front brake offered good power and feel, easily stopping the LiveWire. There is no ABS on the prototype.

Steering is neutral but a tad on the heavy side. Cornering clearance is good, but I dared not be too aggressive cornering on the extremely dusty airstrip surface. Harley-Davidson-branded Michelin tires in 120/70-18 front and 180/55-17 rear sizes should provide good grip on normal roads but had their work cut out for them on the dusty, broken-up runway’s surface.

Although I spent a fair amount of time on this new electric Harley prototype, I still can’t answer the three questions that largely define the success of a production electric vehicle: cost, range, and battery capacity. Because LiveWire isn’t production, cost is a question that can’t be answered. Harley didn’t share much information about the battery other than that it’s a lithium-ion unit that takes about 3 1/2 hours to charge with its Level 2, 220-volt input port. Based on the size of the bike and the area where the batteries reside, we’d say potential maximum capacity is likely in the 14-kWh range. But capacity and charging time were spec’d not by potential production needs, but rather by the demands of the demo tour and expected use in that specific environment.

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 What I can tell you is this: The Harley-Davidson LiveWire prototype I rode had an indicated 30 miles of battery life left in “Range” mode when I started. After many, many photo passes, a top-speed run, and few full-throttle, drag-style launches in “Power” mode, it still had 15. And by my seat of the pants impressions, I’d say the straight-line performance of the LiveWire is on par with the very quick Zero SR.

 Overall, the LiveWire is an impressive exercise. As you would expect from a company that invests so much in finish quality, the materials, and component specifications, are very good. The aggressive, standard-like styling is surprisingly progressive and un-cruiser-like. And, even in “demonstrator” form, the Harley-Davidson LiveWire is the best electric motorcycle I’ve ridden.

 So, yes, as unlikely as it seems, Harley-Davidson has stepped way out of its comfort zone. How customers will react remains to be seen. But for a company that has so aggressively defended and fostered its distinctive engine sound and followed a very traditional path with its products, the LiveWire demonstrates a distinct shift for Harley—from cruiser builder to transportation producer.

Has “The Motor Company” taken on an entirely new meaning?
   
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http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2

http://motorcyclesky.blogspot.com/olgallery/124304/124322/2
  Source: cycleworld

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